Tag Archives: fake linguistics

Beak

According to Daniel Cassidy, in his lying piece of trash, How The Irish Invented Slang, the word beak, an old English slang term for a constable or a judge or a schoolmaster, comes from the Irish beachtaí or beachtaire.

According to Cassidy’s book:

Beak, n., a judge, a magistrate.

Beachtaí, beachtaire, n., a critic; a correcting, captious judgmental person; fig. a judge. Beacht, al. beachd (Gaelic), n., judgment, opinion.

What’s wrong with Cassidy’s argument? Well, the main thing is the pronunciation. Most people reading Cassidy’s book would probably assume that beachtaí is pronounced as beek-tay or beek-tee. Cassidy probably thought the same, because his knowledge of Irish was practically nil. In fact, beachtaí is pronounced bach-tee, with the ch more or less an h sound or the ch of Scottish loch or the j of Baja California. It sounds nothing like beak. As for the meaning, a beachtaí (or its variant beachtaire) is a quibbler, a hair-splitter. It does not mean a judge. As we’ve pointed out before, where the letters fig. are used in Cassidy’s book, they stand for figment of Cassidy’s imagination, not for figuratively as they do in most books. O’Dónaill’s dictionary defines it as “Critical, captious, person.”

It is true that beachd can be a noun meaning judgement in Scottish Gaelic but Scottish Gaelic is a different language entirely. This meaning isn’t found in Irish.

So where does beak come from? The simple answer is, we don’t know. You can find a few suggested origins here: http://www.businessballs.com/clichesorigins.htm

A Challenge To Hugh Curran

 

I have had a comment from Hugh Curran. Remember him?

Why the negative talk using terms like “scumbag” etc. Did I say anything at that merits this kind of comment? I admitted that I was not proficient in Gaeilge even though as a young boy I spoke it at home with my parents who were native speakers. The fact that we immigrated to Canada when I was young reduced my chance to continue as a native speaker even as all my cousins in Ireland are native speakers. The writer of the above article is vehement in his denunciation for reasons I am unable to comprehend unless he feels that any positive comments about Cassidy’s book are totally erroneous. There are at least some words in Cassidy’s book that merit consideration . I would hope the writer of the article withdraws the article or apologies for his remarks.

He claims to find my hostility inexplicable, though I’ve explained it at great length in two languages. I’ve explained why his original comments implied that he spoke Irish. And I’ve also found this on the University of Maine website:

Vox 105 – Beginning Spoken Irish Gaelic I Beginning Irish Gaelic language study using a combination of self-instruction and recitation.  Class is taught by native speakers in the target language, and includes a high degree of cultural engagement.

Maybe I’m wrong but that sounds like the beginner’s course in Irish that Curran ‘teaches’.  Taught by native speakers in the target language? Really?

I’ve also made it absolutely clear that yes, any positive comments about Cassidy’s book are totally erroneous and yes, there are effectively no words in Cassidy’s book that merit consideration. Cassidy’s theories and his book are an immoral and disgusting hoax and Cassidy was a criminal liar who worked for twelve years as an academic without any qualifications at all. He didn’t speak any Irish at all and his knowledge of Irish history and linguistics was entirely inadequate – like the man himself. In short, Cassidy’s book is malicious dross.

And as this is the case, I believe that the term scumbag is entirely justified. Myself and a number of other critics of Cassidy are trying to prevent people being ripped off and lied to and misinformed. And you are trying to spread the lies and misinformation and support the liar. What a scumbag!

However, I’m a reasonable man. You claim that this book is not a malicious hoax. So, you want me to remove the articles about you? Fine, I’ll do that – if you can justify your position with evidence.

So, here’s my challenge to you. Find 10 words or phrases in Cassidy’s book where there is sufficient evidence for Cassidy’s derivation that a reasonable and impartial person would accept that Cassidy got it right. Oh, and they have to be Cassidy’s claims, not claims that were already in the public domain which Cassidy plagiarised, so you can’t use words like pet and cross and snazzy and galore and slew.

Of course, there are hundreds of words and phrases in Cassidy’s book, so if it’s the mine of undiscovered gems you claim, rather than a dark malodorous empty cave containing only the echoes of Cassidy’s insanity, it shouldn’t be that hard to find ten words or phrases that fit the bill. Should it?

If you can do that, I’ll apologise and withdraw the posts about you. (Let me tell you now, you won’t be able to – Cassidy’s book is that big a pile of shite!) And if you can’t, then I will also take down the posts about you, on condition that you apologise for supporting this nonsense in the face of all the evidence and recommend that other people avoid it, which is what a decent person would have done in the first place.

 

It has been said …

We’ve all heard of Uncanny Valley, that virtual realm where the animation is nearly convincing but just slightly off and that slight unreality is enough to unsettle and perturb. However, there is another virtual realm located in a misty valley in cyberspace. Let’s call it the Kingdom of Quotatia. You can get to it by uttering the magic words It has been said.

You see, there is an awful lot of misinformation out there in cyberspace. And it’s not hard to spot bullshit. But with the help of the magic words, you don’t have to bother proving anything or disproving it. All that’s necessary is for someone, somewhere to have said it and bingo, you can quote it. It doesn’t matter if the person who said it was a complete nut-job and fantasist. It doesn’t matter if there is absolutely no evidence for it. If somebody has said it, it automatically becomes A THING. And when it’s A THING you can use it. However dumbass and absurd and ludicrous it is, you can claim it because someone else said it.

Jason Colavito has written a great deal about the way that errors are created and then spread by pseudoscience writers. They quote each other’s mistakes, building vast edifices of trash on misunderstandings and misquotations and downright lies. That’s why so many people spread nonsense like Cassidy’s claims or the rubbish about Dracula being Irish. With the magic power of the words It has been said, you can spread any kind of lying trash you want and you don’t have to worry about the fact that it’s bullshit. Because somebody else said it and you can put the blame – and the responsibility – on them.

How Words Get Borrowed

In this, my first post of 2017, I would like to examine an issue that I have touched on before but never really dealt with properly, the question of how words are passed from language to language.

Cassidy’s methodology was simple. He looked at words and phrases in English, especially slang expressions, and then hit the Irish dictionaries and cobbled together ludicrous phrases which he thought sounded like these English terms. Of course, Cassidy was badly educated and did not speak any Irish.

What really happens when words cross language boundaries in situations like this? (Of course, we need to remember that similar processes were involved in Ireland itself, where the issue was colonialism, not immigration.) Well, basically, a group of speakers of Irish (or any other language) turn up as immigrants. At first, they are unable to communicate with the society around them. Some of them never learn the new language. Others manage to pick up a basic knowledge. As they learn the majority language, they retain grammatical structures and certain words and phrases from their own language. Thus we might hear sentences like this:

“There is whiskey go leor in the jug there.”

“Sure I’m after seeing Lannigan out there, the old amadán!”

“Sure, I’m away to the síbín for a drink.”

Because lots of people in the initial generation of learners use these expressions, they are continually heard and learned and used by the younger generation. Before long, people who speak no Irish are using galore and ommadawn and shebeen in their English.

Note that nearly all of these borrowings are single words and nearly all of them are nouns. There’s a reason for this. It wasn’t enough for a phrase to be used once by one individual. These had to be expressions which were commonly used by that first generation of bilingual English and Irish speakers, by thousands of people in different contexts.

And of course, that’s not what we find in Cassidy’s moronic book. We find that according to Cassidy, Irish speakers supposedly stuck the word án onto lóinte to make something sounding like luncheon (even though the phrase lóinte ána was unknown in Irish until Cassidy invented it), or that sách was used as a noun meaning a well-fed person and that that word always had úr (fresh) stuck on to the end of it. Apparently nobody ever separated the two words. They never said that there was a good sách, or a handy sách, or a stupid sách, or a big sách. No, it was always a fresh sách, so that it would sound like sucker. Yeah, right. You’d need to be a real sucker (which comes from the English suck) to believe that.

Pretty much all of Cassidy’s ‘Irish’ candidates rule themselves out because they are absurd and improbable phrases. Things like n-each as the origin of nag are simply laughable, because nobody is going to pluck a random inflected phrase out of conversation and use it. (Plus the fact that each ceased to be the usual Irish word for a horse hundreds of years ago!)

The question of pronunciation is another tricky issue. People learn English and throw the odd word of Irish into their conversation. The next generation grow up hearing these words and use them themselves. They pronounce them the way the older generation did. There would be no reason for them to mispronounce uath-anchor as wanker or sciord ar dólámh as skedaddle or éamh call as heckle or gus óil as guzzle, because there’s an unbroken chain of transmission and there is no stage at which this kind of mangling could take place. (And please note that none of these Irish phrases exists anyway. They were all invented by Cassidy, along with nearly all of the Irish in How The Irish Invented Slang.)

The bizarre changes of meaning posited by Cassidy are also problematic. Why would shanty come from seanteach if a native Irish speaker would call their hut a bothán or a cró or a cábán? Why would loingseoir, a word meaning a sailor, become a word for a landlubber who works on the dock? Why would a native speaker of Irish say “Sure, I hate living here in dis is lom é?” if they wouldn’t say “Dhera, is fuath liom bheith I mo chónaí san is lom é seo?” The answer is, of course, they wouldn’t and they didn’t.

In other words, this isn’t the way that words cross from language to language. Cassidy’s ‘research’ was entirely fake, like the man who invented it. I don’t know why people like Michael Patrick MacDonald or Peter Quinn or Joe Lee still support this dishonest garbage. It seems a very high price to pay for friendship but then I suppose it’s a sad fact that some people really are that desperate for friends – desperate enough to betray everything they claim to believe in for the sake of a worthless fraud like Daniel Cassidy.

Litir Oscailte Chuig Rónán

Bhí mé ag éisteacht le clár Rónáin inniu. Is breá liom Rónán Mac Aodha Bhuí. Bíonn scoth na Gaeilge le cluinstin ar a chlár agus níorbh aon eisceacht clár an lae inniu. Bhí roinnt daoine ina chuideachta agus is é saibhreas na Gaeilge a bhí i gcaibidil acu. Bhí go maith agus ní raibh go holc, go dtí gur luaigh Rónán an focal snagcheol. Chuir duine éigin téacs isteach. Cad chuige ar úsáid Rónán an focal snagcheol? Ní focal Béarla é jazz, dar leis an téacsóir. Is focal Gaeilge é, mar dhea, a thig ón fhocal deas. Tháinig téacs eile. Ní hea, arsa an ceann sin. Is ón fhocal teas a thig sé. Aidhe, agus fuair an Béarla rock ón Ghaeilge fosta, mar bíonn sé de nós ag lucht an rac-cheoil na seomraí san óstán a raiceáil i ndiaidh dóibh ceolchoirm a dhéanamh…

Agus ansin, luaigh Rónán leabhar Cassidy. Nár scríobh duine éigin leabhar i Meiriceá faoi na focail Ghaeilge atá le fáil sa Bhéarla?

Cuireann rudaí mar sin díomá orm. Tá go leor fianaise sa bhlag seo agus in áiteanna eile ar an idirlíon nach raibh sa Chasaideach ach leathghealt, lán-amadán agus caimiléir cruthanta. Ní raibh eolas dá laghad aige ar an Ghaeilge, agus cé gur Ollamh a bhí ann go hoifigiúil, ní raibh oiread agus céim aige. Is mór an náire nach mbíonn lucht na Gaeilge ag magadh go neamhthrócaireach faoin bhocamadán sin a luaithe agus a luaitear a ainm nó a theoiricí bómánta i lúb cuideachta.

Ní lia saoi ná tuairim maidir le bunús an fhocail sin jazz, agus ní fiú na teoiricí bómánta sin a nascann an focal leis an Ghaeilge a chur ar an liosta, dar leis na saineolaithe, gan trácht ar iad a chur ag barr an liosta! Más mian le daoine a chreidmheáil gur ón fhocal teas a tháinig jazz, bíodh acu, ach is bréag lom a rá nach bhfuil míniú ar bith eile ann nó go bhfuil tuairimí bómánta Cassidy chun tosaigh ar na barúlacha eile.

A Rónáin, a chara, is maith liom do chlár agus tréaslaím do shaothar leat. Léiríonn do chlár nach bhfuil an Ghaeilge marbh ná baol air, agus nach gá do lucht na Gaeilge sodar i ndiaidh na nGall agus scáil na teanga s’againne a fheiceáil i ngach aon chrístín agus drochfhocal atá le cluinstin san Oileán Úr, go díreach mar a bhíonn lucht na cráifeachta ar lorg aghaidh Íosa i ngach aon phancóg agus giota arán rósta dá bhfeiceann siad. Ní linne an snagcheol, agus ní le Cassidy agus a lucht leanúna an teanga s’againne ach an oiread.

Bailiwick

Another ludicrous claim of Cassidy’s is that the word bailiwick (meaning someone’s sphere of influence or control) is from the Irish baile aíoch. This is clearly rubbish for two reasons.

Firstly, the phrase baile aíoch is completely unattested in Irish outside of Cassidy’s fantasy version of the language, although the two elements which Cassidy put together to make this phrase, baile and aíoch, do exist. Baile means home or town, while aíoch means hospitable, and is related to the word aoi, meaning guest. So this phrase might just mean “hospitable home”, though the word aíoch is not very common.

So what’s wrong with this as the origin of bailiwick? Let’s imagine a group of Irish-speaking gangsters discussing their activities in New York in the 19th century. Are they really going to refer to their ceantar (area) or ríocht (kingdom) or fearann (domain) or talamh (ground, land) as mo bhaile aíoch? I can’t see it. It is an unlikely enough phrase anyway, but if I did hear it, I would think of a guest house, or their own house, or even the old home back in the Old Country, not an area which is under someone’s control in a city.

It is also highly unlikely that the word aíoch (pronounced ee-okh or ee-oh] would become wick in English.

And in any case, if Cassidy had done some basic research (something he was obviously too lazy or stupid to do) he would have realised that bailiwick has been in English for nearly six hundred years. It means the area of influence of a bailiff. The most famous bailiwick is probably the Bailiwick of Jersey in the Channel Islands, which obviously has no connection with the hospitable homes of Irish wise-guys.

How Not To Think Like An Idiot

Thinking rationally is important. It is also something which can be taught. While some people are more logical and rational than others by nature, just as some people have a better ear for music or are more athletic than others, this doesn’t mean that people can’t learn to recognise duff arguments and illogical thinking. Over the centuries, philosophers have developed a host of terms for foolish and unreasonable arguments. It is interesting to look back over the arguments used by the supporters of the late Daniel Cassidy and identify some of the logical fallacies and crap thinking which motivate them.

Straw man arguments. Essentially, a straw man argument is an argument which purports to challenge the arguments of the other side but really misrepresents their position, giving a version which is much easier to knock down. For example, Cassidy’s sheeple tend to argue that the Irish speakers who challenge Cassidy are doing so because we don’t believe the Irish language would have been rich enough to give expressions to English. (This is also an example of another fallacy, the false dichotomy. Cassidy’s supporters pretend there are two choices: a) Irish was rich and expressive and gave many words to English, and b) Irish was a worthless language which English ignored because there was nothing worth having in it. In reality, of course, there are other choices, such as my position, that Irish is and was a beautiful and expressive language, but because of circumstances which have nothing to do with its intrinsic merit, it had little or no influence on English.) Another straw man argument, used by certain silly and ignorant people who support Cassidy, is that people like me don’t accept the Irish influence on English because we don’t believe there were Irish speakers in America. In reality, we know that generations of people have left Gaeltacht areas in the west of Ireland and settled in the States but this fact has nothing at all to do with the ridiculous phoney Irish given in Cassidy’s book.

The genetic fallacy. This is where you argue not on the basis of the merits of the case presented, but on the basis that people like that can’t be right. In other words, if the people at the Oxford English Dictionary make a claim about a word, that claim is intrinsically untrustworthy because Oxford is a bastion of Anglophile privilege. This is a version of the ad hominem fallacy, where the opinion that Mr X is a dick is used to argue that Mr X’s opinions must also be stupid. Incidentally, many of Cassidy’s supporters have misused the ad hominem label in criticising myself and other opponents of Cassidy. An ad hominem argument is one which uses criticism of the person instead of an argument. Saying that Cassidy was a liar because all his ‘research’ was made up and he didn’t speak any Irish is not an ad hominem argument.

Appeal to (Inappropriate) Authority. Cassidy loved nothing better than to reel off a list of American and Irish professors and writers who had endorsed his work. In most cases these people were not language specialists and knew as little as he did about slang and Irish. In most cases, they were also close personal friends of his, which means that their support is worth precisely nothing.

Subjectivism (Also known as the Fallacy of the Irrefutable Hypothesis.) Really stupid people rarely get much further than these kind of arguments. I want there to be lots of words of Irish origin in English, therefore there must be lots of words of Irish origin in English. Or I thought Daniel Cassidy was a genius, therefore Daniel Cassidy must have been a genius. Yeah right … And Donald Trump is going to solve all your problems too …

The non sequitur. This literally means “it does not follow” in Latin. Apparently, some of Cassidy’s followers believe that English must be full of Irish loan words because Irish people talk a lot. I don’t know whether this is really true or not. I’ve never seen any research into it. I can tell you for nothing that the Irish don’t respect people who blether a lot. Irish people respect those who can talk well, who are witty, who know what they are talking about. Bullshitters and loudmouths like Cassidy are no more respected in Irish culture than in any other. And even if it were true that the Irish are incredibly loquacious, it would not automatically mean that English must contain lots of borrowings from Irish. You can say it as often as you like, but it won’t make it any truer. (That’s another fallacy, argument from repetition.)

The Anecdotal Fallacy. This seems to be what is going on here, where Sean Sweeney (God love his wit, what a clown!) mentions the fact that his Irish-speaking father used some of the “unknown” words given by Cassidy.

Perhaps Cassidy overreached on some, but the fact remains most of the Anglophilic dictionaries list the etymology of words he addresses as “unknown”, an amazing deficit, despite their slew of researchers and experts to trace the origins. Talking about “shit”. I’ve seen these same dictionaries deem as “unknown” words that I heard my Irish-speaking father use when I was a child. Not saying it applies to you, but “No Irish Need Apply” is still alive and well in some modern linguistic circles.

Anyone with any capacity for rational thought would immediately realise that this is completely irrelevant. These words were presumably spoken by his father in English and I see no evidence that Sweeney ever learned Irish. So were all the words used by his father in English derived from Irish? Did he ever say words like pizza, toreador, blitzkrieg, karate, kummerbund, bagel? Are these all from Irish too? Or did he give some special sign to show that the word in question came from Irish? Perhaps he went all dreamy and gazed off into the middle distance. Ah, lollygag, Seany boy. Dat’s one from da ouuuuuuld language … Yeah, right! What a clown!

The ‘real criminals’ fallacy. I can’t find an established name for this so I’ve made one up. Picture the scene: it’s a couple of days before Christmas and a drunken businessman is standing beside his BMW being breathalysed by a policeman. “Why don’t choo go and cash shome real criminalsh?” says the drunk driver. In other words, according to these people, there is a hierarchy of things to be done in the world, but protecting the Irish language from a creep like Cassidy should be way down the list. “Yes, maybe our friend Danny was a liar and a cheat. But is this really so important? What about world poverty, radicalisation, global warming, the refugee crisis? Why don’t you blog about them?” The answer is, of course, that the Irish language matters to me. And as for the other subjects, I don’t know much about solving world poverty or the war in Syria. So, I choose to blog about a subject where I have a specialist knowledge. Cassidy may not have been the worst criminal in history but he was definitely a criminal and he and his scummy followers deserve to be challenged and shamed.